I started this site with every intention of talking about social issues via mainstream literature. My very first Twilight post -- the announcement one -- stated that my purpose wasn't about AUTHOR BAD or about FANBASE BAD but rather about looking at popular things in a new light and to see how they influence our thoughts and society around us. I have always been about "cheerfully reading too much into things" -- looking extra close and super hard at books and seeing the Fed Ex arrows there, but without blame on anyone. Not the authors. Not the fans. Cheerful. Happy. Fluffy bunnies.
I have tried, gods know I have tried, to never deviate from that message. I have stated practically once per post that "to each hir own" and that everyone can like their own thing without censure. I have written a whole post about this philosophy just to be clear. I have spent literally hours of my life tweaking posts that were largely "good enough" so that they will be absolutely perfect; agonizing over adding "could"s and "can"s and "in my opinion"s to make it absolutely, totally clear that I'm not trying to universalize my opinions and experiences.
And it's not working.
Oh, nobody -- astonishingly -- has gotten particularly hurt or angry over Twilight. This actually does surprise me; I thought for sure we'd get a swarm of angry Twilight fans at some point explaining why Edward is the dreamiest dreamboat ever. But I cannot talk about Narnia without someone telling me that I'm not respecting the author because of his cultural upbringing or that I'm making too much of an obvious fairytale or that I'm forgetting to factor in obscure religious beliefs. And I cannot make a point about life debts in literature ranging from Game of Thrones to Star Wars without feeling like I'm being accused of making people feel bad for liking what they like.
And all this when I'm not trying to criticize these books! I'm trying to talk about society through the books! The books are not on trial here! Society is the point of the discussion; the books are basically the flannel-graph that I use to make my points about society!
But no matter how hard I try to keep every post neutral and calm and thoughtful and "in my humble opinion only", I feel like I make one more person angry or sad or alienated every time I post, and I feel like I lose one more commenter, and I feel like I'm a shit human being at least once per piece.
And I don't know what to do about this.
I've tried tweaking the commenting rules to point out that I'm just one person, doing my best, and can everyone please be really nice and spend time thinking over their comment before posting and how it's going to sound to the person reading it on the other end. I've tried pointing out -- and gods do I feel like a whiner for doing so -- that I'm one person, undergoing major surgery, while my father has cancer, and I'm on a caseload of narcotics, and that it's really demoralizing spending 4+ hours writing a post only to have the whole thing eventually derail into how I'm a terrible person because I didn't take into consideration the fact that the author of whatever piece I'm dealing with had hir puppy die when zie was three and I've got to make allowances for that and therefore I'm not allowed to use their literature in order to point out modern social racism, sexism, ableism, whatever. Or that using said literature to point out same is hurtful to the readers here because it was their favorite book ever growing up and now I've made them feel bad for liking something that I used on the flannel-graph.
And there comes a point where I don't know what to do, or how to keep doing this. I don't know how to continue or start any discussion more controversial than Twilight, which is apparently either universally hated or has really laid-back fans. I cannot do a Song of Ice and Fire deconstruction, even though Husband would like me to, because I cannot handle years and years of people being hurt at me because of something someone else said to them about being a Martin fan. I am struggling to stick with the Narnia deconstruction, as much as I love it, because it feels like the last several posts have been long fights about what is and isn't fair game to analyze when it comes to Stuff Written By English Writers In The 1950s. I dare not do a Lord of the Rings deconstruction for similar reasons, even though I think there's a tremendous amount there to be said about race; I don't feel safe saying it. Because I know -- I know -- I'm going to hurt someone's feelings saying it and then I'm going to feel bad. Because that's what I do.
Tonight I hit complete full-throttle anxiety attack breakdown. I spent all day struggling to write a Twilight post while on heavy narcotics because otherwise there won't be one on 7/7/2012 and I will consider myself a personal failure. I've spent the last five months devoting every waking, non-working moment I have to being on the blog trying to keep up with my posting schedule, and I have spent that time feeling constantly behind schedule. I've given up casual reading, hobbyist reviewing, and professional writing to look after this blog and soothe everyone's feelings and get the posts out the door on time. And then I came home from a night out at On The Border -- a night out in incredible searing pain but I'll be damned if I'm going to be confined to the house forever, and I also have to deal with the fact that Husband is going out of town for FOUR DAYS next week and we literally do not know how I will get out of bed in the morning or feed myself while he is gone but he has to for work reason -- and I come home and there is a Bucket O' Hurt in my inbox.
And EVERY TIME someone posts a Bucket O' Hurt comment on my blog about how someone once yelled at them (except not really!) but that I remind them of the kind of person who COULD yell at them, that takes me at least -- at least -- an hour to politely respond, to apologize, and to nudge everyone back into safe space guidelines because it's pretty much impossible to spill a Bucket O' Hurt without spilling triggers all over the place too.
I don't know how to keep up with this. I don't know whether to recruit Shakesville-esque moderators, which I would hate because I would be inconveniencing others. I don't know whether to do a full Fred Clark-style withdrawal from the comments, which I would hate because then I lose the social interaction. I don't know whether to do a total Kate Harding-style shutdown-hiatus-archive and just embrace the burnout, which I would hate because I like blogging. I don't know whether to institute a Don't Fucking Get On My Tits comment policy and then whittle everyone down to a board of three commenters and maybe a dozen lurkers. I don't know whether to chuck the goddamn Tuesdays-Narnia-Thursdays-Random-Saturdays-Twilight schedule and just publish whatever I can whenever I can and deal with stuff when I have the spoons.
None of those options seem appealing to me.
And frankly I don't know what ya'll want either. I need you to tell me. For instance, I just wrote this today:
But since this is going to be kind of a "filler" day, it's as good a day to ask as any: How are you guys feeling about the Twilight deconstruction? We've been at this for well over a year now and we're averaging about two months per chapter, partly because I'm analyzing on such a microcosmic, line-by-line level. We're about to finish Chapter 9 in a book with 24 chapters; this means that we'll be done with this one book -- Twilight -- in approximately 2015. That seems kind of longish.
One possibility is to keep plowing forward at that snail's pace, but I'm not sure I have that level of endurance and to be quite frank, the comment numbers on the Twilight posts have been slipping, which tells me that you all aren't having as much fun anymore either. And I'm really not kidding when I say that it's the commenting that keeps me doing these deconstructions -- I'm here for the conversation and to know I'm entertaining and enriching people, not to metaphorically shout on the street corner that is the internet while people edge by and try not to make eye contact.
Another possibility is to ramp up the speed a little; it might not be possible to do one chapter a week, like with Narnia, but maybe we can cover one chapter in two weeks. The upside to this is that the material stays fresh, we keep moving at a good pace, and we might actually get to one of the other books in the series someday. The downside to this is that we're going to miss some stuff because I can't cover everything in the gargantuan posts, but ideally the stuff we miss will be little stuff. (Or you guys can help in the comments!)
The other downside to this compression is that (a) I come off as more negative overall (see: Narnia) since I don't have Nice Filler Days, and (b) the material takes me longer to write when it's covering a whole chapter of Fail rather than a few pages of Fail. Still, I think that would be better than handling Chapter 24 in 2015. But I need you guys to tell me what you think in the comments. (For all I know, you're all sick of Twilight and you want me to do something else. I won't know unless you tell me.)
Anyway, we'll go through this post as usual, and then I'll go see if I can't go do Chapter 10 in 1-2 posts as a comparison point (and since I pretty much have to pre-post all my material), and by THEN this post will have gone live and I can see what you all are thinking.
I'm losing commenters over this blog every time I talk about something other than Twilight. I'm losing online friends over it. I'm losing people because no matter how I try, I don't express my opinions carefully enough to not cause hurt and anger and pain. And that makes me feel like a colossal failure.
You tell me what you think I should do. Because I honestly don't know anymore and I'm at my wits' end. Do you want me to keep doing this or do you want me to quit? Do you want me to just stick to Twilight and leave everything else alone? Do you want me to just stay out or the comments and not read or respond to them? Honestly, openly, what do you want? I need to know. Because what I'm doing now... it's just not working and I've spent the last hour sobbing while writing this, which is not a good sign.